Anyone who has strolled into Loie Fuller’s, the Art Nouveau-inspired West Side staple, learns very quickly that it’s a space driven by and respectful of badass dames. It starts with the namesake, Loie Fuller, who lit up New York and Paris at the turn of the 20th century with pioneering dance choreography and unapologetic verve. There’s also the cadre of talented women who founded, styled and run the bistro, and the scores of smart and smartly dressed ladies who frequent the spot between brunch service and late-night cocktails.
When I learned that they were serving a cocktail called the Ladies Choice, I knew I needed to know more. It’s a whiskey-based cocktail with retro edge, in keeping with the essence of Loie Fuller’s bar program: rye whiskey balanced out by Cynar (an Italian artichoke amaro beloved by serious boozehounds) and Giffard apricot liqueur (which is the godly nectar that you never realized you needed until sipping it). A bit of fresh lemon juice and a twist give it just the right pucker.
Manager and self-appointed “occasional bartender” Curtis Eaton created it for two regulars on the spot one evening. These ladies, two instrumental figures in Providence’s WaterFire events, requested something with whiskey. Of his invention for them, Curtis says with characteristic irreverence and a laugh, “I thought it would be tasty!” He explains further that he modeled it on a classic Old Fashioned, but wanted to make it “more delicious” by including the Cynar and apricot liqueur in lieu of the Old Fashioned’s bitters and simple syrup.
As hoped, the outcome was indeed quite tasty. The two aforementioned patrons continued to order it off-menu for approximately a month, until Curtis decided to open it to the masses by adding it to the restaurant’s printed menu. National political currents were also a factor in that decision. “I felt that, in the wake of the Trump nonsense for women lately, it was a good time to celebrate women instead of limiting them. Hence, Ladies Choice.” Curtis redoubled the choice factor by offering a gin iteration for those who prefer clear spirits to the darker arts. That version is akin to a negroni, and a bit lighter than its bourbon-based cousin, yet no less delicious.
Use your favorite rye whiskey, though stray from anything that is on the sweeter side since the apricot liqueur lends its own sweetness. If you’d like to try the gin-based version instead, simply swap in the same amount of your preferred gin. Something more neutral and less botanical, such as Plymouth or Beefeater, is ideal.
• 3 oz rye whiskey
• 1 oz Cynar
• 1 oz Giffard apricot liqueur
• Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
• Lemon twist (small bit of zest)
Combine everything but the lemon twist in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake to blend, and then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
1455 Westminster Street